HOPE — Unused, unwanted and in disrepair, an old fire truck that began service in Rockport when President Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the White House has been sold.

Andy Swift sits on the vintage fire truck. Photo by Jack M. Foley

But the 1928 American LaFrance ladder truck will not be far away when it settles soon into its new home, a cavernous, backyard former chicken coop on Barnstown Road.

Andy Swift of Hope bought the truck from the town in early August. His $1,213 offer was the only bid received for the vintage vehicle that arrived in Rockport from the Rockland Fire Department in 1955 and has been out of service for 32 years, according to Rockport Fire Chief Jason Peasley.

“I just want to have it,” Swift said. “I’ll have to get it running in my spare time.”

His firm, Firefly Restoration, restores antique fire engines and trucks. Typically, trucks have ladders, engines do not. Serving private collectors and fire departments nationwide, Swift has been applying his special talents to old fire apparatus for 36 years.

The price of a fully restored vehicle from the old days starts at $150,000, according to Swift. But the 54-foot, ladder-laden 1928 truck, he said, “won’t be restored.”

His purchase was a special and personal one, according to Swift, although “it would have been easier if I was collecting stamps or coins,” he quipped.

His seriousness about winning the bidding was so intense he even bid against himself, he said, raising his original offer when he learned another bidder might be competing.

With his recent purchase, Swift will fulfill a dream of sorts to reunite two vehicles that, for years, worked side by side fighting fires in Rockport before being nudged aside by new, more sophisticated equipment.

He already owns the other one, a 1927 American LaFrance fire engine sold by Camden to Rockport in 1955.

“I work on fire equipment from all across the country all the time, but because these are local trucks they kind of speak to me,” he said.

1928 American LaFrance ladder truck Photo by Jack M. Foley

The 1927 runs just fine and, not long ago, his kids drove it to the prom, he said.

The 1928 ladder truck has been stored for years on a private lot on Camden Road in Rockport, and was exposed to the elements and drenched in rain except for a hood covering when recently viewed.

Town officials say it was time to let go of the old truck even though as recently as 2018 plans were in the works to repair it and possibly make it the centerpiece of a display of local antique fire fighting equipment, according to a Camden Herald report at the time.

More recently, however, “no one has had the interest or time to restore it, or the funds,” Peasley said. “I am sure some people have feelings and ties to it,” he added, “but it’s not like it was purchased new; it was received from another department so it does not have the sentimental value as if it was bought brand new.”

Town Manager Jon Duke said after years of trying to decide what to do with the truck, even spending $7,000 at one point for a storage container, “it was time” to sell it.

He called Swift “very knowledgeable” in his line of work, adding, “Sometimes the best result is in your backyard.”

1928 American LaFrance ladder truck Photo by Jack M. Foley

1928 American LaFrance ladder truck Photo by Jack M. Foley

Andy Swift of Hope. Photo by Jack M. Foley